Counterstrike of the Free Press
2024 Finalist

Counterstrike of the Free Press

Helsingin Sanomat

Helsinki, Finland

Category Public Relations and Community Service

Media associated with this campaign

Overview of this campaign

Despite the systematic censorship, there’s one channel that the Russian government has not yet blocked: online gaming.

Through the online shooter Counter-Strike played by 37 million people around the world (including 4.3 million Russians) Helsingin Sanomat saw an opportunity to deliver independent information about the atrocities happening in Ukraine to Russian young men.

HS created a playable map in Counter-Strike that hid a secret room where independent information was provided by the newspaper in both Russian and English. The material was produced by HS journalists, correspondents and photographers.

While playing Counter-Strike, gamers would enter the room and find grueling statistics, headlines, images and audio tracks depicting the independently reported horrors of the war. 

Inside a fake war, young Russians could suddenly face the realities of the actual one.

To ensure a high level of detail and authenticity, a Russian journalist who had fled the country helped e.g. identify Russian consumer brands to be placed into the map.  

The objective of the initiative was to make Russian gamers face what was really going on in the Ukrainian war. To sneak stories about war to Russians Helsingin Sanomat (HS) hid a newspaper inside a game with a large following in Russia.

As HS didn’t have any direct ways to encourage Russian gamers to try out the map, the campaign needed to create headlines globally to drive interest around the map within the Counter-Strike community.

By creating major buzz around the map, the initiative aimed to get as many CS players as possible to test out the map as well as discover the secret room with the independent journalism hidden inside. The more the map is being played, the wider it spreads also in the Russian CS community.

Strong news and gaming media coverage was supported by earned endorsements from the gaming influencers to boost the hype around the map.

Results for this campaign

The campaign launched by reaching out to the CS community in April and the map was published on the International Day of the Free Press when it immediately became the #1 trending community-made map in the game.

  • #1 trending map in CS:GO

  • Two weeks since the launch of the campaign, the map has been downloaded by 50,000+ unique players.

  • The community has since shown its support with 4,850 five-star ratings for the map.

  • 870 news articles in 66 different countries, including several in Russian media.

  • Potential reach of 3,900 million.

  • The coverage especially praised the cleverness of the initiative in bypassing Russian censorship and remedying the flow of information online in Russia.

  • After being bombarded with negative reviews, presumably by Russians, the global community pushed back and countered the attack with even more favorable reviews and awards.

  • Among men, Helsingin Sanomat was discussed more positively with a +257% increase in their Brand Buzz score compared to before (5.2% ? 18.6%, YouGov). This was the first time HS surpassed YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company) in measurement history.

  • Furthermore, among men under 40 y.o., recommendations for Helsingin Sanomat increased by +135% during the campaign compared to the annual average (6.3% to 13.6%, YouGov)


Campaign was executed with communication agency Miltton, whose original idea concept was.


To contact a company representative about this campaign, click here for the INMA Member Directory

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